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News from around Wisconsin (11:11 p.m. 2/5/10)

Politician dating lobbyist gets angry e-mails

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin residents angry about Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan’s relationship with a lobbyist sent him insulting and hate-filled e-mails this week calling for his expulsion from his leadership position, messages released Friday to The Associated Press show.

There were also a handful of encouraging e-mails, which were released under the state open records law.

Assembly Democrats have stood by Sheridan so far. Sheridan has said he’s done nothing inappropriate despite dating Shanna Wycoff, a lobbyist for the payday loan industry, which Wisconsin lawmakers are looking to better regulate.

Sheridan, who has served as speaker since Democrats took control of the Assembly following the 2008 election, said he and Wycoff dated off and on for several months starting last year.

“We had a friendship,” Sheridan said Monday. “I would never let my personal life impact the work that I do in the state Assembly.”

His assurances were not enough for some members of the public.

“I will be asking the Democratic party in WI to consider expelling you,” John Casper of Milwaukee wrote Monday, in one of the more kindly worded e-mails Sheridan received. “The public trust is NOT FOR SALE. Your casual responses to extremely serious concerns about your relationship with a registered lobbyist were completely unacceptable.”

Pedestrians struck by Amtrak train

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — A northbound Amtrak train from Chicago has struck several pedestrians at a crossing in suburban Lake Forest.

The Amtrak train, heading for Milwaukee, was using tracks it shares with the Metra commuter railroad.

According to Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet, the accident occurred between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday. The exact number of pedestrians struck wasn’t immediately known, but Pardonnet said at least two were injured.

Metra trains using the Milwaukee North line terminate at Fox Lake. Pardonnet said trains on the line are experiencing delays of at least 30 minutes.

Telephone calls to Amtrak were not immediately returned.

Illinois man killed in snowmobile crash in Wis.

EAGLE RIVER, Wis. (AP) — A 26-year-old Illinois man is dead after his snowmobile struck a tree in Boulder Junction in northern Wisconsin.

According to the Vilas County sheriff’s office, it received a report of a snowmobile accident about 1:45 p.m. and that someone was giving the victim CPR.

The victim did not survive. Authorities are only identifying him by age and his hometown of Bloomington, Ill., until his family is notified.

The crash remains under investigation.

Trial to start on demotion of UW-Whitewater dean

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A trial expected to begin Monday will recall an ugly chapter at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, when two black administrators were each demoted within months for misusing university credit cards.

The university removed its graduate studies dean, Lee Jones, after an investigation in 2005 found he repeatedly broke rules on travel and credit card spending. Months later, the university demoted Howard Ross from his 13-yeartype:italic; position as dean of letters and sciences when an audit suggested he couldn’t account for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Both cases stung, coming as lawmakers were scrutinizing wasteful spending in the UW System and the southeastern Wisconsin school of 10,000 students was trying to improve diversity.

Ross has claimed he was the victim of a witch hunt and guilty at most of shoddy record keeping that is routine on campus. He claims he was treated unfairly by an auditor who once said she wished black people were honest like Michael Jordan and by administrators angry that he questioned his treatment publicly.

His civil lawsuit alleging discrimination and retaliation by several university officials will be heard this week in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.

Ross has continued to work as a professor of philosophy and religious studies at UW-Whitewater even as his lawyers have tried to expose the audit as flawed and prove white administrators with similar problems were excused and promoted.

“What we’ll be talking with the jury about is the inequitable treatment of people, and the unfairness of the way they were administering the university,” said Ross’ attorney, Robert Kasieta. “Speaking as a taxpayer, I’m offended by what I saw happening at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.”

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